[Hpn] U.S. Plans Homeless Initiative:$350 Million Program ... ;Washington Post;7/19/02
Morgan W. Brown
Fri, 19 Jul 2002 10:52:29 -0400
Friday, July 19, 2002
Washington Post <http://www.washingtonpost.com>
Federal Page/ The Administration
U.S. Plans Homeless Initiative
$350 Million Program Aims to Tackle Chronic Problem
By Amy Goldstein
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, July 19, 2002; Page A25
The Bush administration yesterday announced a $350 million joint venture by
three federal agencies to weave together housing and social services for
homeless people with addictions, mental illnesses, prison histories and
other root causes of persistent homelessness.
Housing and Urban Development Secretary Mel R. Martinez said the grants
program, to be run by HUD and the departments of Health and Human Services
and Veterans Affairs, will target people who chronically have nowhere to
live. It will provide rent subsidies and "supportive services," such as
counseling, health care and other props to help stabilize their lives.
The undertaking, Martinez said, reflects a commitment by the administration
to link the money and expertise of diverse parts of the government in an
effort to reverse -- and ultimately eliminate -- the homeless population's
growing ranks. As a symbol of that collaboration, he made the announcement
after presiding yesterday morning over a meeting of a homelessness council,
composed of 18 federal agencies, which has been dormant because Congress
eliminated its funding from 1994 until last year.
Martinez said in an interview that the grants program is a "new and
unparalleled" effort to respond to research, which shows that people who are
chronically homeless make up 10 percent of the United States' homeless
population -- yet consume half the resources the country spends on the
The $350 million in grants are the latest of several ways the administration
has sought recently to portray President Bush, who was traveling in the
Midwest during the council's meeting at the White House, as committed to
helping the homeless.
Bush has cited the needs of the homeless as a prong of his "compassionate
conservatism" agenda. He has spoken of the homeless most often in
conjunction with the administration's Faith-Based and Community Initiative.
"We ought to say to churches and synagogues and mosques, love," Bush said in
a recent welfare speech -- one of many times he has cited the theme. "If you
want to love your neighbor like you'd like to be loved yourself, start a
program to help the homeless, to feed people."
Administration aides say Bush has put money behind his resolve. In the
budget he gave Congress this year, Bush embraced a highly ambitious goal
Martinez set forth a year ago of erasing chronic homelessness in the coming
decade. The budget contains $2.2 billion for homeless programs in various
agencies, a 3 percent increase. Administration officials acknowledge that
the increase is modest but say it would be especially useful at a time when
many states and cities are decreasing their spending on the homeless.
Philip Mangano, hired four months ago as the homeless council's executive
director, said the administration also is emphasizing the idea of serving
people who are homeless -- or at risk of becoming so -- in "mainstream"
programs for which the White House is seeking more money this year. These
include housing, drug treatment, food stamps, foster care and help for
people adjusting to life after prison. "We need to focus on preventing
people from falling into homelessness," Mangano said.
At yesterday's council meeting, the first in six years, participants from
various agencies recounted their efforts, Martinez said afterward. An
education official talked of a requirement in the education law Congress
adopted last year to put in each school system a liaison worker to help find
local homeless children.
Martinez plans to elaborate on the administration's approach in a speech
today before the National Alliance to End Homelessness, which is meeting in
Washington this week. In prepared remarks, he said of the multi-agency
council: "I can think of no clearer message that we are serious about taking
on the homeless challenge."
Yesterday, Donald Whitehead, executive director of the National Coalition on
the Homeless, the oldest and largest advocacy group on the issue, called the
council's resumption "a huge big deal." He praised the $350 million for the
long-term homeless. But he said the administration should spend more on
women and children, who represent a growing share of the homeless
population. He also criticized the administration's opposition to a
proposal, recently defeated by the House, that would have significantly
expanded housing for the poor.
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Morgan W. Brown
Montpelier Vermont USA
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